At the age of 23, my great-grandfather, Andrej Legersky arrived in New York City at Ellis Island in 1919, after a long cold November voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in a steam ship that had departed from Germany.
Before this big move he had made a short immigration west from a small village in Slovakia, where he spent his childhood and grammar school years, to Vienna, Austria where he worked as a clerk and educated himself as much as he could.
He was looking for a better life in the U.S.A. and there, with very hard work on the railroads and the coal mines in Southwest Pennsylvania he raised a family of 13 children with a woman who?s parent?s had immigrated from Romania (Transylvania). They were Catholic, but not overtly religious and didn?t pass on a strong attachment to Catholicism in their children. But, their Eastern European traditions from Slovakia and Romania were practiced and continued, probably without much thought about it ? just in the way they knew to live life ? and this left a lasting impression on their family for generations, even to his favorite boy in the family ? me, his great-grandson, Randy Thomas Legersky.
It?s ironic that I would return, eighty-five years later, to Eastern Europe when my great-grandfather and his wife?s family risked so much to leave it.
What was the one thing that could make me leave the United States to live in Romania? Love, of course.
I had been laid-off from my job for a couple months after working for over five years at the most successful Internet service provider in the world, America Online (AOL). Five years is a long time to keep a job at one company in the United States these days, and the job had become the focus of my whole life. So, once I didn?t have this job anymore, I saw the real world around me for the first time in a long time, because I wasn?t staring at a computer screen for 10-14 hours a day anymore. The world fascinated me; I was like a newborn baby, and the world scared me, also in much the way new things scare a baby.
I had been covering politics while at AOL, but I had not really realized the impact that the election of George W. Bush had on the economy and the world. Two weeks after I lost my job, a much bigger event hit close to home ? the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington DC and Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001.
That day, I was at job retraining organized by my former company. The offices were just a few miles from the C.I.A. headquarters. When we heard that airplanes had struck the World Trade Center buildings in New York and the Pentagon just outside Washington, we were terrified that another wave of attacks would hit Washington DC.